Shaping the future of shipping: Stena Bulk ventures into the world of AI
March 2024

Over the past year, the world has witnessed an unprecedented surge in AI technological development. Most of us will have now experienced the power of generative AI, and many of us will have already incorporated it into our workflows and personal lives. This wave of innovation has certainly captured our imagination here at Stena Bulk.

Over the holiday season period at the end of last year, I reflected on the potential that AI has to positively impact the way we operate. I concluded that a good benchmark for our interest should be that when tech companies are paying attention to how new innovations can be applied for them, we should probably do the same.

We are constantly on the lookout for ways to move towards the future by embracing innovation. The next area that we want to explore is how AI could potentially positively impact our business and operations.

That’s why I wanted to share that we have established an AI accelerator team within Stena Bulk. The team is drawn from our existing employees, who have been given the headspace and time to focus 100% on this exciting project. Their current roles have been protected and ringfenced while they are focusing on how we can apply AI across a range of areas in our business over the next eighteen months.

Looking holistically at our business means that we have built our team of eight from people in all of our critical business functions, including shore operations, finance, data analytics, and more.

We think that this is fairly unique for shipping. Being willing to ‘fail fast’ and innovating quickly is one element, but we’re also proud that we have been able to build this team from our own employees internally, rather than bring in outside consultants. That’s why we like to refer to it as an AI accelerator team, because it brings us more into alignment with big tech and consumer blue chips than you might normally associate with a shipping company.

To help really kick this project into the highest gear from the start, the team will undergo a residency programme for three weeks at Stanford University, which is renowned for its innovation and technological advancements.

During their time in California, the team will learn about the ways that AI is being applied across business and academia, with a view to being able to start their own projects that identify the “low hanging fruit” within our own operations. The team will also find the interfaces and experts that can help with implementing AI, and get a better understanding of the limitations and possibilities.

We do not yet completely know where these first applications of AI might lie within our business. We will probably start small, such as exploring how AI can help us cut down repetitive administrative tasks, improve financing and invoicing, or to extra data for human interpretation from our databases and systems.

From there, I’m confident that we’ll be able to see how AI might be applied at a slightly ‘higher’ level. We’re going to leave no stone unturned in our process, because we see this work as an important part of shaping a Stena Bulk that is resilient for the future.

Of course, embarking on such a journey is not without its challenges. We are entering into this with the contingency in mind that it might not work. But we are not afraid of failing; it will all be part of our learning process. We are prepared to take smart risks, learn, and, we hope, ultimately deliver tangible results that benefit both our company and our industry.

We want to create something with our new AI accelerator that we can be proud of. We hope by taking this step we can, in some small way, light a beacon that the rest of our peers in the industry can follow. We look forward to sharing more updates in the coming weeks and months about the progress that this team makes.

By Erik Hånell, President & CEO of Stena Bulk
March 2024